Beneath the Surface of ADHD
My name is Dr. Charlie Todaro. In addition to my specialization working with athletes and teams, I have a vast background in ADHD assessments and working with the ADHD brain. Understanding how the brain works allows me to support people in reaching their full potential. This work has helped me understand ways in which ADHD can be an asset for people if they have the right tools. The purpose of this series will be to color in the shades of gray across the often perceived black and white spectrum of ADHD symptoms and its impact on individuals. What you can expect in this series, Beneath the Surface of ADHD:
· Learning how ADHD shows up in daily life
· Tips to better manage ADHD if you experience symptoms, or live with someone who does
· Tools for athletes to better understand how to use ADHD to their advantage
· Education for parents and coaches so they can better understand how to work with individuals with ADHD.
Let’s spend some time discussing the conceptions and/or misconceptions of ADHD. When you think about someone having ADHD – or maybe you are someone with ADHD – what assumptions come to mind? We often think of a boy bouncing off the walls or forgetting to turn in homework; or a girl daydreaming, “not paying attention”, or being the “class clown.” These descriptions are often true but do not tell the whole story of the strengths of an ADHD brain.
The presentation of ADHD evolves and shifts: as an adult, someone may experience impulsive spending, have trouble keeping stable relationships, or be inconsistent with schedule maintenance. These examples are clear and true. We can empathize with how an ADHD brain sometime feels like it’s working against you. It may be difficult to connect with someone who has ADHD if we don’t understand how their brain works and their unique challenges.
Athletes, coaches, parents – It’s important to remember that a person cannot “grow out” of having ADHD, since it is a Neurodevelopmental Disorder that is very heritable (Grimm et al., 2020). We can do better to understand the impacts of having a brain that is neurodiverse and how to mentor and coach an individual who experiences these differences.
Here are some facts that you may find interesting:
· The CDC estimates 1 in 10 children have ADHD.
· Boys are two to three times as likely to be diagnosed as girls, often because boys’ behaviors are more aligned with common perceptions of ADHD behavior.
· ADHD prevalence rates in adults are between 2% and 5% in the U.S. population, the rate of diagnosis nearly 2 to 1 in men to women.
· Roughly 60% of all children have a co-occurring mental health disorder along with ADHD; such as anxiety, depression, Autism Spectrum Disorder, OCD, learning difficulties, or another behavioral issue. (CDC, 2022)
Having ADHD can be challenging enough; having other difficulties compounding its effects can be devastating without understanding, structure, and empathy.
In adulthood, people with ADHD can create structure and systems that can help them adapt and thrive. Despite having creative solutions, individuals with ADHD can often feel misunderstood, judged, and misaligned with expectations from others. Life can feel like an uphill battle, with constant perceived failures. This is made worse when individuals are not diagnosed, even though the signs are there, resulting in doubts about their intelligence, strengths, and worth. Some may feel that something unexplainable to others - this internal force - makes life more difficult in a variety of ways.
Another misunderstanding for individuals with ADHD is the combination of “weaknesses” combined with powerful “strengths.” Dr. Ned Hallowell, an M.D. who has ADHD himself and has a lifelong background in studying ADHD, often describes having ADHD as “having a Ferrari for a brain with bicycle breaks.” Keeping oneself “on task” can often be difficult because the brain is overstimulated, by any number of things, and it can be hard to slow down and focus on the “right” thing. For example, an individual with ADHD may be able to pay attention, but what is of interest to them at that moment might not align with the demands or expectations that the situation is requiring. Therefore, in context, they might be paying attention to the “wrong” thing.
But it’s that type of hyperfocus that has helped some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, executives, artists, chefs, athletes, scientists, and authors. Once a person can learn to harness and better direct the power of their brain – i.e. where to pay attention, to what, and how to manage their behavior in a way that better fits the expectations or norms of a given situation – the doors to self-belief and success open. Instead of getting “normal degrees,” society-changing tech companies are created (Steve Jobs); creative genius arises (Jim Carrey and Justin Timberlake); historically great athletes channel their hyperfocus into victory and purpose (Michael Phelps and Simone Biles). It’s rumored that Einstein, Mozart, and Da Vinci - while undiagnosed – displayed the creativity, savant, passion, hyperfocus, and disorganization often associated with adult ADHD.
As we launch into this series, we hope there is something that resonated with your own life experience, either about yourself or someone close to you. We hope you enjoy this series as much as I am excited to share it. If you want to learn more about ADHD assessment, treatment, or learn how to perform your best, please contact us. We are curious to know what you may want us to write about, so reach out! TOPPS is here to serve the greater community of Austin.